It seems like the entire hockey world has watched in wonder, live or on replay, the goal scored by Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark on February 25, 2023.
The rarity of the event was a powerful attraction.
In fact, there are even rules established years ago to make it even less apt to happen.
But Ullmark became just the 13th National Hockey League goalie to be credited with a goal, a feat that may be the sport’s rarest happening.
With the Bruins leading Vancouver 2-1 and just 45 seconds remaining, the Canucks pulled their goalie and sent out an extra skater. A long errant pass sent the puck to the right of Boston’s goal where Ullmark gained control and lofted it in a high arc over three approaching Canucks. The puck traveled almost the entire length of the ice, about 180 feet, landing about 15 feet in front of the Vancouver goal, then sliding past the crease into the middle of the net. Finally, it caromed back out and was slapped away in disgust by Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes.
Ullmark’s teammates on the ice mobbed him with hugs and jabs to offer their joyous congratulations. Players on the Bruins’ bench banged their sticks on the boards, and jumped about wildly. There were lots of smiles and roars of laughter.
As scorers now do, after a goal, Ullmark then skated past the Bruins bench, slapping gloved hands with his teammates to signal mutual approval. Wearing his full goalie regalia, he looked out of place on his congratulatory skate.
The Bruins TV play-by-play broadcaster was temporary at a loss for words but filled the airwaves with shrieks and yells that still got the message across to listeners.
After the game Ullmark recalled that he had tried to score a goal earlier in the season, during the Winter Classic game played at Fenway Park. “It’s one of the dreams I’ve always had and now I had the opportunity” he said. “I tried in the Winter Classic and it didn’t make it, but now everything came through.”
His fellow goalie, Jeremy Swayman, also had a shot at scoring into an open net in a game against Columbus earlier this season. His shot missed by inches. But that didn’t stop him from joining Ullmark after his score to continue their now benchmark post-game center-ice hug. The embrace lasted a little longer this time.
The 13 NHL goaltenders who have scored have been credited with 16 goals. A goalie can score either by shooting the puck into an opposing team’s net or be awarded a goal as the last player on his team to touch the puck when an opponent scores into his own net (known as an “own goal”). Of the 16 goals, nine have been scored by shooting the puck and the other seven were the result of the even rarer “own-goal” occurrence.
Brian Boucher, a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, was involved in one such “own goal” game. The Woonsocket native and former Mount St. Charles star was in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers’ in a 2000 game against the Devils. But it was New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur who was credited with a goal in that one.
Brodeur scored after Boucher was pulled by the Flyers for an extra skater with his team behind 3 to 2 and a Philly teammate accidentally shot the puck into his uncovered net.
In the game’s early history, way back when, goalies were allowed to participate in a team’s offense. But as equipment got more bulky and serious injuries happened to some goalies, the league changed the rules. Goalies now are not allowed to cross the center-ice red line to play the puck. And, to be sure, their sticks are designed to help stop a puck, not shoot it, although the more confident among today’s netminders use slightly curved blades.
The first NHL goalie to “score” was Billy Smith of the Islanders in 1979 when he was credited with a goal after a Colorado opponent put the puck into his own net. Smith had been the last New York player to touch the puck. Ron Hextall of the Flyers was the first to score by shooting the puck, in a 1987 game against the Bruins. Martin Brodeur leads all NHL goalies in scoring, with two in regular season play and one in the playoffs.
By Arnie Bailey